Climate Change Spurs Tourism in Nepal, But Will it Last?

Tourists at Sarangkot Development Committee, Nepal Himalaya (Source: Wazari Wazir)
Tourists at Sarangkot Development Committee, Nepal Himalaya (Source: Wazari Wazir)

Possessing eight of the ten highest mountains in the world, Nepal has attracted mountaineers from around the globe. Currently, there are 326 peaks open to mountaineering in the country, while 112 peaks remain unclimbed. Trekking and mountaineering, the most popular tourism activities in Nepal, bring substantial profits to the country. In 2013, travel and tourism accounted for 8.2% of Nepal’s GDP. As the resources required for tourism in Nepal is highly climate dependent, if climate change melts the ice and snow on Nepal’s mountain peaks, will tourists continue to flock to Nepal?

Nepal’s Mt. Manaslu, in the Mansiri Himal mountain range, is the eighth highest mountain in the world, at 8163 meters above sea level. It is part of the Manaslu Conservation Area (MCA), which is bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north and east, Manang District to the west, and Gorkha District to the south. Featuring glacial mountain tops, great biodiversity and coniferous forest, it is a popular destination for skiing, hiking, and mountain biking, which are major income sources for the local people.

Mt. Manaslu from the old monastery near Lho village (Source:  Jan Zalud/Flickr
Mt. Manaslu from the old monastery near Lho village (Source: Jan Zalud/Flickr

Currently, tourism in the area is benefitting from climate change, as warmer winter weather is attracting visitors. Reduced snowfall has also made it easier to complete some challenging paths, like Larke Pass, at 5135 meters above sea level. Also, winter trekking, currently restricted to lower elevations in Nepal, is likely to extend to higher elevations as temperature rises. Both the annual mean temperature and rainfall have increased in MCA, at the rate of 0.020C. per year and 3.19 mm per year respectively from 1980 to 2011. Local households have noticed: 93.4% of those surveyed in MCA claim to have experienced climate change, such as warmer weather and irregular rainfall.

In the long run, however, some worry that climate change will induce more extreme weather and water shortages in Nepal, which will be bad for tourism. Increased rainfall and natural hazards caused by climate change, such as glacial lake outburst floods, will eventually discourage Nepal’s most popular, though climate-dependent, tourist activity, trekking. As one of the ten most vulnerable developing countries, Nepal might experience decreased tourism because of climate change sooner than the other countries.

On the top of Larke Pass in Manaslu Conservation Area (Source:  Rojan Sinha/Flickr
On the top of Larke Pass in Manaslu Conservation Area (Source:
Rojan Sinha/Flickr

GlacierHub has previously written about privatizing the world’s tallest peaks, a Peruvian national park that is capitalizing on glacier melt, glacier tourism in Peru, and a lake in Nepal that is filling with melting glacier water.

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Roundup: Pollutants, Columbia Glacier Retreat, Cryo Consortium

Pollutants from Glaciers

“As glaciers increasingly melt in the wake of climate change, it is not only the landscape that is affected. Thawing glaciers also release many industrial pollutants stored in the ice into the environment. Now, within the scope of a Swiss National Science Foundation project, researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Empa, ETH Zurich and the University of Berne have measured the concentrations of a class of these pollutants – polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) – in the ice of an Alpine glacier accurately for the first time.”

Read more at PHYSORG.

 

Columbia Glacier is Retreating

“Scientists have long studied Alaska’s fast-moving Columbia Glacier, a tidewater glacier that descends through the Chugach Mountains into Prince William Sound. Yet the river of ice continues to deliver new surprises.When British explorers first surveyed the glacier in 1794, its nose extended to the northern edge of Heather Island, near the mouth of Columbia Bay. The glacier held that position until 1980, when it began a rapid retreat.”

Read more at Earth Observatory.

 

Inter-university Consortium

“For the first time, an Inter-University Consortium on Cryosphere and Climate Change (IUCCCC) is undertaking glacier studies in four States in India, funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). Also unprecedented is the participation of the University of Jammu and the University of Kashmir in this effort.”

Read more at The Hindu.

 

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After 100 Years of Glacier Loss, Alberta Braces for Erratic Water Flow

Overlooking the town of Banff, Alberta in the Canadian Rockies, with Bow River flowing across the town. Taken at the top of the Sulphur Mountain. (Photo: Yuanrong Zhou)
Overlooking the town of Banff, Alberta in the Canadian Rockies, with Bow River flowing across the town. Taken at the top of the Sulphur Mountain. (Photo: Yuanrong Zhou)

When I travelled to Banff National Park in Alberta last summer, I was impressed by the high white peaks of the Canadian Rockies. Locals joked that those who want to see the snowy, icy mountains should hurry, because such beautiful landscapes may soon cease to exist due to global warming. Sadly, what the local people said is true. A recent study suggests that glaciers along the eastern side of the Canadian Rockies will lose 80-90% of their volume by 2100.

“Temperature rise isn’t something you can see. But a glacier melting is something everybody can see,” Michael Zemp, director at the World Glacier Monitoring Service told National Geographic magazine in 2006, when discussing glacial loss in the Alps.

The majestic snowy crowns I spied in Banff form the Peyto glacier, situated at the headwater of the Mistaya River, which merges with the North Saskatchewan River at Saskatchewan Crossing. It happens to be a reference site for the World Glacier Monitoring Service, a Zurich-based organization which gathers and distributes standardized data on glacier fluctuation. In its latest report WGMS noted that Peyto is losing 3.5 million cubic meters of water every year. That kind of volume of water can sustain a city with a population of 1.2 million, such as Calgary, for one day. Cumulatively, 70 percent of the Peyto Glacier ice mass melted since the mid-19th century, when scientists first began watching it.

Peyto Glacier at 1896, taken by Walter Wilcox. (Source: PARC Project P55 Report)
Peyto Glacier at 1896, taken by Walter Wilcox. (Source: PARC Project P55 Report)

Meltwater from glaciers on the eastern slope of the Canadian Rockies, including Peyto Glacier, supply both the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers, which flow into the Canadian Prairie Provinces – Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, to support municipal, industrial, as well as agricultural usages. With the dramatic retreat of glaciers along the east side, like Peyto Glacier, the two Saskatchewan River basins have seen significant declines in flow. In particular, the mean annual flow of Bow River at the South Saskatchewan River basin, which passes through Alberta, has decreased by 11.5 percent since 1910.

With melt season occurring earlier and earlier each year, spring floods have become more common, while water supply is low during the summer months, just when it is most needed. Specifically, the spring flow in Bow River has increased by 15.2 percent since 1910, though the annual flow has declined. Consequently, Alberta has experienced severe floods successively in June 2013 and June 2014 due to intensive precipitation as well as early snowmelt.

Heavy rain combined with earlier glacier melt into both the Elbow river and the Bow river flooded Calgary, Alberta in late June 2013. (Wayne Stadler/Flickr)
Heavy rain combined with earlier glacier melt into both the Elbow river and the Bow river flooded Calgary, Alberta in late June 2013. (Wayne Stadler/Flickr)

“In the last twelve years, the Prairie Provinces have seen the worst drought and the worst flooding since the settlement of western Canada,” John Pomeroy, director of the Center for Hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan, told Yale Environment 360 earlier this year.

To adapt to future changes in water flows, new water management systems have been implemented in Alberta. In 2010, the Bow River Project was launched to analyze the Bow River System. Ultimately, scientists on the project recommended developing integrated management of the water system. Most recently, in March, the Bow River Project submitted its final report, Bow Basin Flood Mitigation and Watershed Management Project, which recommended measures that might prevent devastating floods in the region. In particular, the report proposed wetland storage and restoration of natural rivers to prevent future melt-related floods like those recently seen in Alberta.

But these are measures of adaptation rather than prevention. They won’t do anything to stop Peyto and glaciers like it from disappearing. Keeping these glaciers alive will take a different kind of effort, though I may not be around in 2100 to see what happens.

 

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Roundup: Glacier Names, Pakistani Disasters and More

Iceland names 130 new glaciers

“The new names mainly refer to places in the vicinity. For example, Kerlingarbaksjökull lies to the west of the mountain Kerling in Eyjafjörður, Sýlingarjökull in Svarfaðardalur is named after the mountain Auðnasýling and Dyrajökull lies in the Dyrfjöll mountains in Borgarfjörður eystri, as stated on ruv.is. Oddur is working with local and U.S. colleagues on making a map for an international glacier atlas.”

Read the full story in the Iceland Review.

 

Pakistan is suffering from disasters caused by climate change

“If we look at the current disaster history of Pakistan, the country has encountered multiple disasters which are only caused by the climate change phenomena, which includes coastal flooding, drought, and flash floods. Among these the melting of glacier causing glacial outbursts observed an unprecedented events in northern part of the country.”

Read more about disaster risk reduction in The Dardistant Times.

 

Controversy on tropical glaciers

“Yet the idea that the ice cap has retreated over time because of a change in temperature, rather than other possible factors like reduced snowfall, has always been more of a surmise than a proven case. In fact, how to interpret the disappearance of glaciers throughout the tropics has been a scientific controversy. ”

Read more about scientific battles on tropical glaciers in The New York Times.

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Photo Friday: Mammals from glaciers

A number of images of glaciers in the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of North American Mammals. The dioramas in this exhibit feature sheep, goats, bears and caribou, all denizens of mountainous regions in the western US, Alaska and Canada. Ben Orlove visited the exhibit last Monday. This is the first GlacierHub post on mammals. We have featured birds from one island and from around the world.

Photo Friday highlights photo essays and collections from areas with glaciers. If you have photos you’d like to share, let us know in the comments, by Twitter @glacierhub or email us at glacierhub@gmail.com.

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